I had an unsettling experience recently. While cleaning my desk, I stumbled upon a cache of notes and cards from my husband. I’d clearly saved them for a reason. There were a few encouraging cards with lovely things written on the front — and in about half of them lovely things written in my husband’s handwriting inside. But only half. Because half of those cards were blank.
I remember now that when we went to sell our house, I happened upon a bunch of romantic cards that had nothing written inside. Socked away, very appropriately, in my husband’s sock drawer.
We moved so quickly when a good job opportunity came up that I’d had to clean out most of the house all by myself. Which meant going through his things.
And this was a secret stash of cards that he’d bought for me on some day, knowing that my primary love language is Words of Affirmation. And that I’d love to get a romantic card from him.
He’d given me a few already (thus, why some of the cards I have do have writing in them). But these were the ones he hadn’t used yet.
So I packed them up when we moved, and I have them saved, along with a few sweet notes he wrote me. One note is a short pseudo-affidavit, dated June 2014, in which he swears his love for me. It’s signed. Written on an odd-sized piece of rectangular scrap card stock with four small holes punched in the corners, suggesting it was once affixed to a pair of pants or something. And suggesting maybe the reverse side once had a size or brand on it, before the years wore it off.
I Smiled Because I Forgot & Then I Frowned Because I Forgot
I smiled at first when I stumbled upon this trove. Because I had forgotten about all of these declarations of love. These sweet gestures. And remembering something like this feels good.
But a few moments later, I’m frowning. Because it dawns on me then that I’d forgotten about them. And the forgetting makes me feel guilty. Because how could I forget that he’d declared his love? How could I forget that he made the effort of picking out cards, hiding them, filling them out?
It boggles the mind that I forgot. But I did.
I spend a lot of time feeling like he never tells me how he feels. Because I’m focused on the immediate past. And I forget so quickly. I really do.
Sometimes he gets frustrated with me, that I forget how he feels, because maybe he hasn’t told me in a little while. And when he gets frustrated with me, it feels unfair. But staring at this trove, I get it. I start to understand what it must feel like from his vantage point. That all the effort dissipates the moment I turn my back. That time destroys each and every effort until it’s as though they might as well never have been made.
There’s something cruel in my tendency to forget. And it’s an unsettling experience finding myself confronted with that, as I look over the cards and notes.
Sometimes Forgetting Is Good for a Relationship
There are other times, too, that we have both forgotten, times where it was good for our relationship that we forgot. There are disagreements that have been resolved, that we’ve moved past, that I’m glad are buried.
After all, keeping score never leads anywhere useful long term.
Maybe that’s the key to a good relationship, especially a relationship that lasts long term and follows the individuals involved over many years in life and many different versions of themselves. Maybe knowing the difference between good and bad forgetting can make all the difference.